It’s becoming a pretty regular occurrence nowadays to read articles proclaiming that vitamin supplements are useless. It’s usually some newspaper or magazine, some ‘official’ website, some outspoken doctor, or some myth-busting blogger talking about the latest published science paper that back up the argument that we are all wasting our time taking supplements.
Sometimes it seems to me that ‘science’ is not in touch with reality because I know from experience that I simply could not get the results I get without employing copious amounts of supplement support for my clients. What gives?
The premise of most of the anti-vitamin articles is that the writer is trying to protect the public from false information by alerting them to the fact that much of the advice to take supplements is wrong.
Fair enough, but there is another reality overlain on the story which is that these arguments are increasingly nested inside a huge morass of conflicting socio-political opinions that mostly have nothing to do with vitamins or supplements or science!
This, of course, is the way the world is. C’est Lá Vie!
The ‘morass’ I speak of has spawned what appears to be – on one side - a backward superstitious fact-hating truth-denying stubborn exclusive group of individuals collectively thought of as the alt-right, - and on the other side – a supposed forward-thinking science-loving myth-busting inclusive group of individuals collectively thought of as the alt-left.
I stress the words “…what appears to be…”, because that’s all it is, a narrative, a story line that is quite easily punctured to reveal that this divide is not real. It is not REAL!
Real people, with real concerns, living (or at least trying to live) real lives, are not even close to being that easy to categorise. Only the extremes are. Only extreme ALT’s are obviously categorizable into left and right, and this of course is what they want! Everybody else spans the spectrum depending on the issues and the context. At least they do in the privacy of their minds – if not openly.
The official line is that vitamins are a waste of money.
The narrative supporting this is that anyone who ‘believes vitamins are any good’ are denying hard science and must therefore be either thick, ignorant, or wilfully Alt-right and in denial. Wow!
Here’s something to ponder though…most of the narrators of this line of thinking have lost all pretence of objectivity (one of the hallmarks of good scientific thinking). They have taken sides because it suits their personal belief system. Pure and simple!
What’s worrying is that we all do this at some time – it’s a human failing you might say. It wasn’t a failing in our distant past, it’s a failing now because we are exposed to SO MUCH information. In fact, you could argue that it is because we are exposed to so much information that this failing must come to the surface. We pick sides because that makes emotional sense to us, and anyway there is just too much data to pick through.
But let’s back up for a bit of objectivity. We have to make ourselves ‘back up’ because we are invested in the topic, so we are compelled to introduce some objectivity. We don’t want to, but if we hold truth as the highest value then we must force ourselves to. It is possible to hold a strong opinion on something and yet take a genuinely objective view on it to see if you can learn something new. Who knew?
It’s the unwillingness to be objective that is the problem, not the point of view one has before going into the subject.
So – let’s be objective.
First there are too many papers to tease out, so we have to content ourselves with doing what we can. This means we won’t get it perfect, but this is life, and it is ok.
Most science papers examine a very narrow topic and the researchers try to control the variables as much as possible.
Most public facing articles that report on the science paper (be they blogs, news, or periodicals) are commercial entities that use their writings to make money. They cannot tease out the boring details of a paper because it would mean losing their readership, so they summarise and present opinion to the readers rather than letting them make up their own minds. This is how mass media works!
So, in general you can’t get good analysis from mass media. Not even from something like 60 Minutes or Readers Digest! You are always going to get opinion, more than facts and detailed analysis.
(It’s the same with this blog!)
The reality is that sensationalist headlines make sweeping generalisations based on very narrow lines of research. Even the authors of the research papers are often forced to come out and say “Hey…wait a minute…that’s not what we said”.
The issue could be boiled down to one pertinent fact – research findings cannot be extrapolated to any given individual, so mostly it is true to say that headlines don’t apply to you – specifically to you!
Everyone’s best bet is to engage an individualised mindset and use that as a template to find their way through the huge subject of health, and forget about all the headlines, stop worrying about random articles that pop up and confuse or worry them.
Science will work in your favour, but not if you have a mindset jammed to one side or the other.
Personalised investigation will get you great results but not if you allow yourself to be easily thrown off course by random opinions.
Be prepared to weigh up facts within your personal context but most of all know that faith in yourself will take you further than anything. It is this above all that allows you to get results because you WILL come across conflicting information, you will be thrown by headlines and opinions, you will face uncertainty and overwhelm when you set your sights on a big and worthy goal, but you WILL prevail if you can allow yourself to be objective and open minded.